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In Logic Pro 9 Essential Training, Scott Hirsch explains how to harness the power and flexibility of Logic Pro, Apple’s popular songwriting software, to record, edit, and mix music. The course includes instruction on how to compose in Logic Pro, and spend more time being creative and less time dealing with technical uncertainties. Scott focuses on setting up a workspace, recording with both live performers and digital instruments, editing and arranging, and mixing and mastering a composition. Exercise files accompany the course.
Depending on the processing speed and power of your Mac, when you load up a project with too many plug-ins or software instruments, you may run out of CPU power. Let's learn how to manage this when your project is at its most processing intensive state, the mix. You can view, at any time, how much processing power your project is eating up, by choosing Options > Audio > System Performance. Then you get a pop-up window that shows you two things: the Audio, this is the CPU power and a Disk I/O, this is how much information is being pulled off your hard drive. When we are looking at CPU power, we are mostly concerned with the meters in the audio part.
Let's hit play and see where it lands on the meters. (Music playing.) As you saw, we had a quick jump in Disk I/O, once I hit play, but then everything balanced out. We were barely hitting the audio meters in this case. This is a pretty powerful computer. So, all these plug-ins weren't taxing our system too much. If the info were to read at the top of the meters, don't worry, your computer won't blow up. The playback will stop and you'll receive a message that CPU usage is too high.
Some plug-ins increase CPU usage more than others, notably space designer and sculpture. Here's some tips to help you if your computer is not keeping up. Now that we are in the mixing stage of our project, we can increase our CPU power by going to the Global Preferences, Logic Pro > Preferences > Audio. Here we can increase our I/O Buffer Size. Right now, it's pretty low at 128 Samples. To give ourselves more CPU power, we can turn it all the way up to 1024. As you can see, that increased the Resulting Roundtrip Latency up to 48.7 ms.
If we were recording, that will be too high. We would hear a delay. But now that we are mixing, we can put it high without any problems. So, let's apply changes and close this window. Another word about latency, remember latency is the dirty word of digital audio. It refers to the time delay of your audio that computer processing causes. Some plug-ins, especially the ones that require more processing power, induce different latencies in your tracks. This can cause phase issues and a general time smearing of your mix. In other words, all instruments are not outputting exactly on time if you have different plug-ins on their tracks.
Luckily, Logic has a way to deal with this called latency compensation. To see that, let's go back into the preferences. Under Logic Pro > Preferences > Audio, this time we'll go to the General tab. Here we have an area called Plug-in Latency. Notice there's a pulldown window next to compensation. Currently, it's set to All. This means that Logic was already compensating for the latency on our plug-ins. This is good to leave on when you're mixing, but I would turn it off when recording. Since we are in the mixing stage of our project, we can leave it on. Another way you can conserve system usage in the mix is by using a cool technique Logic offers called Track Freezing.
Let's go back to the Arrange window to see this one. Track Freezing works by writing a temporary audio file version of a track into Logic's memory. When playback occurs Logic, simply reads the file instead of doing the complex realtime processing. This conserves a lot of processing power. The only trade off for us is that we get locked out of the tracks parameters. Let's demonstrate this on the N_Beat 1 track. Notice, in channel strip, this track has a lot of plug-ins in it. but if we don't think we need to change the parameters of those plug-ins, during the course of our mix, we can freeze this track and save system resources.
To enable Track Freezing, go up to the View menu, choose Configure Track Header and check the Freeze button, and then hit Done. You'll notice a little snowflake button appeared in all of our track headers. This is our Freeze button. So, when we are ready to freeze this, or any track, click on the button and then hit play. Logic will play through the whole song and freeze the necessary tracks. This takes a second, but it conserves a lot or processing power, so it's worth it. So, now, this track is frozen.
If we try to open one of the plug-ins in the track, you see we get a snowflake icon. We are actually locked out of the tracks plug-ins. If we do need to make changes, all we need to do is unfreeze the track by clicking on the Freeze button, then we can go back in and make a change. Say I need to move this compressor threshold a little bit. Now that we have changed a plug-in parameter and we want to re-freeze the track, we have to click the Freeze button again and hit play and let Logic go through the process again. Keep in mind you can freeze more than one track at a time. If you do that, Logic will still only have to play through once to freeze all those tracks.
For bigger mixes, conserving processing power might be an essential of making it work for your computer. Processing power is your only limitation when it comes to working in Logic. So, now, you have some handy tips to effectively remove that limitation in the mixes.
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